Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Inverlochy 1645

The background to this battle can be found on the Scotwars website and of course Wikipedia. The set up followed the historic deployment, with Argyll's army deployed with the Campbell troops in the centre and regular troops on the flanks. These 'regulars' were veterans of the Marston Moor campaign and were expected to perform better than the levies used in earlier battles. The cavalry were placed on each flank. Montrose's army was outnumbered and had very few cavalry. An immediate attack was chosen as the best option, with the clans attacking the Campbells and the Irish taking on the regulars.

Montrose's attack was not well co-ordinated, the rough ground on the left slowed the Irish and hampered the clans; so MacColla's attack went in unsupported. This allowed the Covenanter's to concentrate their fire and the Royalists suffered heavy casualties. On Montrose's right, Ronald Og's Irish troops were preoccuied with the Covenant left wing cavalry, taking considerable time to drive them off to shelter beneath the walls of Inverlochy Castle. Fierce fighting between Campbell troops and
Montrose's clans continued and casualties rose on both sides.

Seeing the enemy's right wing cavalry moving to flank the attack on the centre, Montrose's bodyguard charged forward and caught the Covenanters unprepared. Although outnumbered the Royalists pushed back their opponents, causing even more confusion in their ranks.

Now their flank was secure the Irish on Montrose's left fired a volley and charged the Covenanter foot. The defensive volley was poor, most of the shot going high, and betrayed the nervousness of the supposedly experienced troops. The impetus of the Irish charge drove the Scots back, opening gaps which the Irish were quick to exploit. In no time at all order broke down completely and the Scots routed to the rear. Behind the Irish, the MacDonalds were trying to work around the flank, but progress was halted when the cavalry melee went against the Royalists. Although the Covenanters were pushed back and disorganised they so outnumbered their opponents that they managed to surround them. The small number of Royalists desperately sought to cut their way free; some were successful, but the standard bearer was captured. Amid some rejoicing the standard was carried to the rear by one of the young ensigns. This was to be the only real success of the day, because seeing the totally disorganised cavalry the MacDonald's charged and not waiting to cross swords the Covenanters routed.

The Irish on the left now reformed and moved to the flank of the Campbells. On the opposite flank the Irish had driven off the cavalry and the clansmen had at last routed the other Covenanter regiment. Both flanks of the Campbells were now 'in the air' and although they had forced Montrose's clansmen to fall back to reform, their position was desperate.

As one, all Montrose's units charged forward and the Campbells were overrun. A few, a very few, managed to hack their way to the temporary safety of Inverlochy Castle, but most died where they stood.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Napoleonic Naval

About twelve months ago I posted an article about some model ships I had purchased from the local branch of 'The Works'. In true wargamer style after the initial enthusiasm my attention drifted and it took the reappearance of the "Fire and Steel" packets to bring the models to the fore again. Naturally, I took the opportunity to increase the number of ships in my collection and thus the following scenario was created.

The admiral the Marquis del Norte, commanding a squadron of Spanish ships has decided that the French are the true enemy and overcoming his distaste for the Royal Navy he has persuaded several of his senior officers that they should breakout and head for Lisbon, to offer their services. (I know this ignores the possibility of a British blockading squadron, but needs must!)

The Spanish fleet consisted of 5 ships, the Santa Trinidad (flagship), the Angel de Guardia, Badajoz, Antamasia and Napolitania (which was just out of shot).

Opposing them was a French Squadron under Admiral Beaujolais with his flagship, the Neptune and the Sabre, Royal Louis and Claret.

As an experiment, we used the rules which came with the models. For each mast on a model you could roll one d6 to try and damage an opponent. On the mast was a picture of a dice, either red (long range) or white, (short range). This had a number which had to be exceeded in order to score a hit.

The numbers on the dice ranged between 2 and 4, (the Spanish tended to be higher). Once all your masts were eliminated, you were deemed to be sunk. The rules advocated the removal of the masts, but as I had found them rather fiddly to fit on the hulls, I decided that we would use a paper record.

So with sails set, the fleets manoeuvred into position. One thing that the Marquis quickly appreciated was that maintaining a rigid line of battle would not work as well as allowing his captains the freedom of manoeuvre. Beaujolais, a more traditional admiral persevered with the 'tried and tested' method and found that rather like his compatriot at Aboukir Bay (Admiral Brueys d'Aigalliers), being the 'meat in the sandwich' was not healthy. The first to suffer was the Claret, which was fired on by Badajoz and Antamasia (known to her loyal crew as Aunty Masie)

However, once the larger French ships, with their superior gunnery came into range the Spanish began to suffer. Although the French also lost the Sabre in no time the Spanish fleet had been sunk.

Reviewing the game, which, including the initial maneuvering, had taken little more than 30 minutes, we decided on a few amendments. Firstly, the gun ranges were increased for the larger ships, which eliminated the anomaly of the smaller ships (Claret, Antamasia and Napolitania), being able to sit at long range and pick off the ships of the line at their leisure. Secondly, saving throws were introduced to represent the ability of the larger ships to absorb punishment. We didn't get around to adjusting movement rates to reflect the direction of the wind, or the size of ship, that will be a task for the future.

So the fleets were re-set for a re fight. Again the Marquis tried to use his superior numbers to 'double team' one of the French ships, but Beaujolais had first blood as the Badajoz was sunk by the fire of the Sabre. The Santa Trinidad was saved from heavy punishment by the new 'saving throws' rule and slowly the two flagships closed on each other. Beaujolais was confident his better gunnery would prevail, but he had not noticed the 'Aunty Masie' which came out of the smoke and delivered a telling salvo. Two masts were shot away on the Neptune and then two more as Santa Trinidad crossed the Neptune's bow. Unable to avoid a collision, Beuajolais had a boarding party assembled and as the ships met the French crew surged forward. Del Norte had prepared for such an action and the Spanish crew resisted the attack. After a vicious struggle the French were beaten and the flagship taken. Perhaps disheartened by the sight of their flagship being taken the gunfire slackened on the Sabre and Royal Louis. Taking advantage, the Angel de Guardia, Antamasia and Napolitania, pounded the French until they sank. Basking in the glow of victory, Del Norte entertained Beaujolais in his cabin, making sure the French admiral could see his captured flagship being towed to Lisbon. Only the Claret survived to take the news of the Spanish victory back to France.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


As an experiment I am adding a page with extra photos. The link on the right to my gallery is still active, but when I add photos, older ones 'drop off the end' so this may be a solution. When I run out of pages I will have to have a rethink!
So, to see a few extra photos of the Schleswig game click on the link above.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

First Schleswig War 1848-1851

This is a new departure for us. We used 15mm figures and adapted a set of AWI rules with which we were familiar. This rules set is particularly appropriate as the Schleswig army was a mix of units of differing military training, very similar to the American forces in the AWI. Unusually for us, they are computer moderated, so generals have no idea of the status of units once they have been in action for a short time.

We started with the action at Bov. A force of Schleswig troops had invaded Denmark before the promised Austrian, German and Prussian troops arrived to help them. The Danes seeing an opportunity to eliminate the Schleswig army quickly moved forward and caught the Schleswig forces before they could retreat. One force advanced from the north, a second was landed to the east and moved towards Flensburg, hoping to block the line of retreat and a cavalry force moved around the western (left) flank.
Naval support was also available to the Danes, as they had ships in the sound on the Schleswig right which covered the road leading back to Flensburg.

The Schleswig army took up position behind a small river which was fordable to all but artillery. Two bridges crossed this river and they were covered by the artillery. Two line battalions and a jaeger battalion covered the coast road; three battalions and a jaeger battalion the road inland. The two cavalry regiments were placed in the centre.

The Danish commander concentrated his cavalry on his right and the two infantry brigades (8 battalions plus two jaeger battalions) initially pushed forward to force a crossing by the bridges. To the east of Flensburg, two battalions plus a jaeger battalion moved to attack the sole Schleswig battalion garrisoning Flensburg.

At first the Schleswig defence had some success, particularly at the inland bridge, as the 1st Danish line regiment, which led the advance, was routed when charged by the defenders. On the coast road, the first line of defence (militia) crumbled when charged by the lead Danish unit, but the second line held, bottling up the advance. The naval guns then lent their weight to the Danish attack, softening up the defenders before a second infantry push. The line held long enough for the Schleswig general to rally the militia, before it had to give ground, pounded by naval guns and outnumbered by the Danish infantry. They then routed, leaving the militia to hold the Danes back.

Over on the Schleswig left the Danes were enjoying more success. The cavalry crossed the river and although the Schleswig dragoons charged forward to hold the line they were defeated in a tough struggle with the Danish 3rd Dragoons. Skirting the Schleswig defences the Danish cavalry pushed forward. After sending an aide off to request assistance from the 2nd Schleswig Dragoon regiment, the commander of the 1st dragoons moved his men forward again, hoping to delay the enemy advance.

In Flensburg the situation was deteriorating. The garrison battalion were doing their best, but being only part-trained they struggled to hold the Danish jaegers back. When the skirmishers were reinforced by two line battalions the writing was on the wall. With most of their officers wounded, the militiamen were unable to stand when they were charged and routed back through the Flensburg streets.

For the Schleswig commander the day was lost, all he could do was try and extract as much of his battered army as he could. He ordered the 1st Dragoons to charge the Danish horse and the left wing infantry to hold the line long enough to enable units to move over from the right. On the coast road the militia continued to fall back under fire from the Danish fleet. The routers on the road ran straight into the arms of the Danes in Flensburg, for them the war was over. In the centre the initial success was eclipsed by a second Danish advance which was supported by artillery. The defenders again failed to stand and fight and routed back towards Flensburg, where they too were captured. The 1st Dragoons tried to buy time for the infantry, but their charge was easily defeated by their opponents and then the Danish cavalry moved to attack the rear of the remaining Schleswig infantry in the centre. A brave, but futile attempt by the jaegers to stop the cavalry resulted in them being overrun and few escaped to rejoin the army the following day. Assailed from the front by infantry and from the rear by cavalry the remaining infantry and artillery recognised the inevitable and surrendered. Only 4 out of the original 10 battalions made it back to the German lines, to be joined over the next few days by dribs and drabs of fugitives.

The only thing stopping a complete Danish victory was the sight of the Austrian, German and Prussian forces barring their way. The Danish commander was reluctant to take on twice his own number, especially as the political situation was unclear.

After the war, Lord Palmerston is reported to have said

"Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business; the Prince Consort, who is dead; a German professor, who has gone mad; and I, who have forgotten all about it"

Friday, 2 March 2012

The Empire Strikes Back?

Our scenario this week was set in the Seven Years War, in the period following the battle of Kunersdorf. Frederick had rushed to try and make good the losses he had sustained in that battle and one source was the various 'satellite' armies in the west. The army of Prince Heinrich in Saxony had therefore been stripped of most of its regular troops. Seeing this, General Stahlberg, commanding the Reichs Armee decided the time was ripe for an invasion of Saxony, with the aim of capturing Dresden.

Alerted to the advance of the Reichs Armee, Prince Heinrich moved his troops to a position where he could contest the crossing of the Blau Wasser and block a move on Dresden. He had two brigades of fusiliers (8 battalions,) one battalion of Frei Korps jaegers, one battalion of grenadiers, two light guns and a brigade of cavalry consisting of a regiment of dragoons and one of Hussars.

The Reichs Armee had 14 battalions of line infantry, two battalions of grenadiers, a regiment of cuirassier and one of dragoons and one heavy and one light gun. As he neared the Blau Wasser the only Prussian unit Stahlberg could see was a light gun which covered the only bridge over the river. What he could not see was a brigade of fusiliers behind the Church hill to his left flank and the cavalry and remaining fusiliers behind the woods behind the light gun. The Prussian grenadiers were in the village of Brunhof which lay just beyond the woods. Prince Heinrich's jaegers were in the broken ground to the Prussian right of the bridge.

Uncertain of the fordability of the river Stahlberg advanced his cavalry on his right together with a brigade of infantry and one battalion of grenadiers. The artillery advanced up the road with a view to taking up position either side of the bridge to support any crossing. To the Reichs Armee left a brigade of foot plus the second grenadier battalion moved forward, hoping to cross the river and then secure the church. The remaining six battalions would march straight up the road.

Reacting to the Stahlberg's manoeuvres, Prince Heinrich ordered his cavalry forward to oppose the enemy horse should they cross the Blau Wasser. He also sent a courier to the infantry on his right with orders to contain any forces which crossed in the vicinity of the church hill. Orders were also sent to the colonel of grenadiers to bring his battalion forward to support the light gun covering the bridge. Meanwhile, the lead elements of the Reichs Armee reported back to Stahlberg that the Blau Wasser was fordable and he gave the order for the advance to continue. The river was fordable, but with more difficulty than expected and as the Reichs Armee heavy cavalry formed up on the Prussian side they were charged by the Prussian dragoons. Caught at a disadvantage, they were quickly bundled back across the river. The Prussian cavalry reined in, reformed and waited for further enemy pushes.

Over on the Reichs Armee right the infantry were crossing unopposed, the Prussian fusiliers only now moving into position. However, the Reichs Armee infantry were placing themselves in a loop of the river with insufficient room to deploy. By now Stahlberg was supervising the deployment of his artillery, the heavy gun to the left and light gun to the right of the bridge. The light gun was in range of the rifle armed Frei Korps jaeger ensconced in the broken ground. The bullets were soon zipping round the ears of the crew and not a few were becoming casualties. The first Reichs Armee battalions were now crossing the bridge, straight into canister range from the Prussian light gun. The front ranks of the column dissolved into chaos under the artillery fire and the green troops broke and ran back over the bridge. Undeterred, a second battalion advanced only to receive the same treatment. However, they were made of sterner stuff and continued on up the road. Ignoring a second round of canister they charged the gun, if they captured this, the road to Dresden was open. The Prussian grenadiers were only just getting into position to support the gun and could not intervene. Prince Heinrich was saved by the alertness of the Hussar colonel who moved his men forward to attack the flank of the Imperial infantry. Caught unawares the infantry had no chance and were driven back in short order.

On his right, desperate to establish a bridgehead on the far bank of the river, Stahlberg pushed forward a battalion of grenadiers. As they struggled to reform,they were charged by the dragoons. A volley emptied a few saddles, but could not stop the Prussian horsemen. Although they fought bravely, the grenadiers were pushed back, again the dragoons reined in and reformed. However, they were now in range of the Imperial artillery and the guns soon began to inflict casualties.
Aware of the limited cavalry resources available, the dragoon colonel pulled his men back from the river. Once out of range he reformed his ranks, but his retreat had given time for a brigade of Imperial infantry to cross and also the reformed regiment of cuirassier. Once again the dragoons charged and once again the cuirassier were defeated. The colonel was a casualty in the melee and as the remaining officers tried to restore order the Imperial infantry exacted some revenge for the defeat of the grenadiers by firing a telling volley. With the increasing casualties (over 60%) the dragoons fell back and took no further part in the action.

The crisis of the action was now approaching. The Prussian centre was struggling to 'keep the cork in the bottle' and push back any Imperial attacks across the bridge. The left flank infantry brigade, although undamaged now faced attacks by up to 6 battalions of infantry with cavalry support. Only on the Prussian right were matters secure. The brigade there was holding its ground and had driven two battalions back with c30% casualties.

Prince Heinrich ordered the Hussars to charge the flank of the Imperial infantry moving against the central light battery. This they did with valour, but a steady volley halted them in their tracks and a second drove them back. To restore the line, the grenadiers moved forward. To their left, the Imperial cavalry commander saw an opportunity to attack the grenadiers flank and ordered his men forward.

Fortunately for the grenadiers the Hussar colonel had reformed his men and although outnumbered by the heavy cavalry moved to support the grenadiers. Their attention focused on the grenadiers the dragoons were surprised by the hussar charge. The right flank slowed, uncertain which unit to attack and indecision changed to consternation as the Prussians closed. Unwilling to stand and fight, the Imperial cavalry broke and ran.

Stahlberg recognised that the day had gone against him. He ordered his units to fall back and make camp for the night. Prince Heinrich, although the victor realised that he would have to fall back towards Dresden. He was still outnumbered and now short of ammunition. However, his fusiliers, often derided as second class had stood their ground and won a victory. Morale was high.

The scenario was fought using the Koenig Kreig rules and Prince Heinrich had a +2 for initiative. This gave him a big advantage in either taking advantage of firing first, or requesting Stahlberg to move and then reacting to the Imperial moves. Stahlberg was not helped by having a truly dreadful run of dice. Both sides had 2nd rate line units, but the requirement for the Imperial troops to attack always ceded the first volley to the Prussians.